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"You will begin to notice an enhancement of your natural abilities. Your intuition will increase. You will begin to notice the divine occurring around you, in a thousand minuscule ways, constantly. All the time. And those minute details will lead to other more significant observations, and so on. Ad infinitum. Until your entire universe is transformed forever."
- Octavio Coleman, from the Induction video, The Jejune Institute
When you've lost your ability to believe in fairy tales and the tooth fairy, and when facts are just a finger's touch away, life can start to seem a little stale. Perhaps the answer is a transfusion of mystery, a little confusion, or a dose of curiosity. Manufacturing a little uncertainty in the lives of others can be tremendously energizing for you, as well. This can be as easy as the simplest of actions: writing things on the pavement in chalk; leaving small bits of art hanging from trees or tacked to walls; or even tucking notes into the knotholes of trees. I always think of the artist Lynda Barry describing how she would leave piles of pennies around in places where neighborhood kids would play, because she remembered the thrill of finding something like that when she was a child.
More elaborately, I've recently been engaged in some collaboration with a faux stamp-collecting group; together, we create "tours" of strange places and create stories about workaday locales, inviting people to break off from their regular routines and explore an alternate version of ordinary places. I can't tell you how exciting it is to have an excuse to, say, hide an object so well in the landscape that a person would only find it if he or she knew exactly where to look. Or to string little jewels along an out-of-the-way path so that players and neighbors alike can look up and think "who did this? was it just to make me happy?"
The answer, of course, is yes. But it makes me happy, too. Very much so.
This year, in January, the tables were turned on me. On a weekly basis, in the two or three months leading up to my birthday, my husband would say "I'm going to be gone this afternoon, can I have the scooter?" and when I'd query, "What are you going to do?" he'd say "never you mind." I'd catch him lost in thought or taking notes, and I suspect now he was working out the details of what was to become my birthday present.
On that day, I waited as instructed, having blocked off the afternoon, and soon received a message telling me to inspect the underside of the "saddle" of my "new red horse," which I took to mean I should look under the seat of the scooter parked out front. There I found a typed list of clues and instructions, and I realized I'd be going on my own scavenger hunt.
Now, my husband likes games, but not this type of game, and he's never been much interested in my little forays beyond the fact that they seemed to make me happy. And he'd never (ever) done anything quite like this. This was a real stretch, and what an elastic one it turned out to be. I rode the scooter to the first location, having no idea what lay before me, and spent the entire day in building lobbies admiring bizarre sculpture, finding clues in views, learning the cobbled corners and winding byways of my adopted city, and delving into the half-real, half-imagined world of "John B. Montgomery", a ship's captain, courtesy of my husband's adopted identity for the day, "John B. Jr. Jr."
I met a man who operates a display-window-deep bookstore. He was in on it. I visited the fifteenth-floor roof garden of a skyscraper and found a note taped to the underside of a table. I entered a Bohemian restaurant and was eyed amusedly by the two young bartenders pulling pints (they were in on it; one gave me a rose, even though it wasn't in the plans). I wandered and got lost and got stuck...and, at the end, I found my mind completely transformed by the experience, strikingly similar to the way I'd felt at the end of my first visit to The Jejune Institute. I genuinely felt--even though another part of my mind knew it couldn't possibly be true--that the city, somehow, was conspiring to create magic for me. As though the city--its uneven pavement and mislaid street markers and odd bits of detritus--wanted me to enjoy it.
I had unearthed my last clue and discovered instructions to meet John B. Jr. Jr. at The Pied Piper bar (apropos, no?), and as I turned to my left and was heading toward a busy streetcorner, I heard the faint strains of music slowly growing louder. On the approaching corner, as I watched, three individuals wearing Guy Fawkes masks crossed at the crosswalk. One was carrying a boom box. Two were carrying posters. For just the barest moment, I honestly thought they were in on it. The magic had suffused me that much. After overcoming my awe and confusion (and coming to my senses), talking to them for a few minutes (and giving them my rose), I learned that they were Chanologists (a group that protests at Scientology locations) doing their usual slot at the Scientology center. They were the nicest people, on their own schedules--though one of them gave me a friendly hug when I offered up my rose--but to this day, a small part of me still believes they were crossing that street, at that time, just for me. That's what a little significance will do for a person.